With less than a month back in NYC, Claire Jackson heads off on yet another adventure as she trades the upper West Side for Brooklyn and and sets off to explore a different world altogether, Malawi, Africa. Here she is with Notes from NYC: Part 5.
I am looking out the front window of Dean and Deluca, watching the people of New York hurry to work, hurry into the next shop; watching their umbrellas go up and down as the rain starts and stops. Nothing beats people-watching in New York. No one looks the same; everyone is so clearly from somewhere else. The limitless diversity that blankets this city can be seen on the streets, in the parks, the bars and cafes, pouring in and out of the subway. It’s my favourite thing about “Nueva York”.
The past month has exposed me to even more variety than I have grown accustomed to in the past six months. After my somewhat impromptu decision to move out of my upper west side apartment (supported by nothing more than a fortune cookie), it was back to life out of a suitcase. While I found someone willing to take over my room almost instantly, the task of finding two rooms for my kiwi roommate and I proved a much greater challenge. Brooklyn was the area of choice; apparently the place to be for the summer. A seemingly distant land from Manhattan, Brooklyn is the Wellington or Melbourne of New York (if there can be such a place). Having secured myself a two-week sublet in Williamsburg, I am able to observe as hipsters emerge from their “artist lofts”; head off down the street on their bike or skateboard. I can’t help but wonder what jobs allow them to both wear ripped jeans and a beanie to work but also keeps them paying the rent that rivals the wealthy districts in Manhattan.
So our house-hunt continued, the experience of which is summed up here with scary accuracy: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/what-its-like-apartment-hunting-in-nyc. With each ignored email or encounter with dodgy leasing agents, the threat of being homeless in New York loomed closer. In reaction to this threat, the weeks were filled with anxious laughter and cocktail remedies.
A well-timed distraction, this month also provided my first opportunity to act as tour guide to my visiting “mom” and aunt. My favorite cafes, restaurants, hole-in-the-wall ice cream bars all featured on the lengthy list of must-sees that was to be crammed in to three weeks. Their visit also provided a convenient opportunity for me to work through a number of sites on my own expansive list.
Just as it was in 2006, my favourite gallery among multiple gallery and museum visits, is the lesser known DIA gallery. A day that starts and ends with an hour train ride along the Hudson River is a perfect chance to escape the city chaos.
While my local knowledge was put to the test most days, sharing experiences like a Sunday Yankees game in the sun and street performances in Central Park, made me look and feel like I knew what I was doing.
And once my tourists had gone, it was only with hope, desperation and charm that my roommate and I found ourselves a Brooklyn roomshare only days before I am due to leave the country. Awaiting my return, I shall have a roof over my head, new roommates with whom to acquaint myself, and a sizable courtyard just waiting to be utilized all summer long. Far enough away from the familiarity of the upper west neighbourhood, there will be new opportunities to get lost, to catch the subway the wrong direction; only a true New Yorker looks forward to learning the new “prewalking” on the subway (that is, the art of knowing where to board the train so you can step off and walk directly out of the appropriate exit).
For now, I sit waiting at JFK, waiting to board a flight to the other side of the world, to a different world all together: Malawi, Africa. A virgin to that vast continent, I am unsure what to expect. I am unsure whether to even attempt to imagine it. My fellow passengers look equally apprehensive. Perhaps this is how everyone looks before boarding a fifteen hour flight.
As if the diversity of New York isn’t enough I am traveling to the edge of my comfort zone to encounter entirely new sights, sounds and experiences. I look forward to reporting back.